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Dealing with Problems Connecting to iTunes

For the iPad or iPhone to be a happy camper, it needs to be able to connect to iTunes on the user's PC or Mac and synchronize data. Regrettably often, either the computer doesn't recognize the device, or iTunes refuses to communicate with it.

When this happens, work through the following sections in order until iTunes acknowledges the iPad or iPhone.

Checking That the iPad or iPhone Has Battery Power

Start by turning on the iPad or iPhone and making sure it has at least some battery power. If not, connect it to the USB Power Adapter and give it ten minutes or more to pick up a charge; when it's comatose, it can't make iTunes recognize it.

Checking That the Dock Connector Port on the iPad or iPhone Is Connected and Working

Next, check that the USB cable's Dock Connector is firmly connected to the Dock Connector port on the iPad or iPhone. It's easy enough to get a partial connection with the locking catches not fully snapped home and the connectors not all connected.

If the Dock Connector won't go into the Dock Connector port fully, most likely something else has. Grab your can of compressed air and blast the Dock Connector port free of lint, critters, or other debris. Check that the Dock Connector itself hasn't gotten gunked somehow. Then try inserting the Dock Connector in the Dock Connector port again.

Checking the USB Port the Connection Is Using

Make sure that the USB port is working correctly. Usually, the easiest way to check is to plug in another USB device that you know is working. If the USB device still works, the port should be okay.

Next, double-check that the USB port is a 2.0 port rather than a USB 1.x port. Pretty much every viable computer these days has USB 2.0, but some well-preserved computers may still be staggering along with USB 1.x.

The easiest way to check the speed of a USB port on the PC is to plug the iPad or iPhone in and see whether iTunes or Windows warns you that the port is slow. The Windows warning is usually a pop-up message in the notification area (the system tray) saying "HI-SPEED USB Device Plugged into non-HI-SPEED USB Hub" or "This USB device can perform faster if you connect it to a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port." The iTunes warning is an easy-to-understand message box.

To check the speed of USB ports on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu to open it.
  2. Press Option to change the About This Mac item to the System Profiler item.
  3. Click the System Profiler item to launch the System Profiler utility, which displays detailed information about the Mac.
  4. In the Contents pane on the left, expand the Hardware entry if it's collapsed.
  5. Click the USB item to display its contents.
  6. Click one of the USB Bus items in the USB Device Tree pane, and then check the Speed readout in the lower pane. If the readout says "Up to 480 Mb/sec," the USB bus is USB 2.0 and all is well; if the readout says "Up to 12 Mb/sec," it's USB 1.x, and you've got a problem.
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